Manitoulin Family Resources celebrates new food bank, thrift store building

Nicky Thompson, Manitoulin Family Resources’ food security supervisor, shows off the brand new Manitoulin Food Bank complete with high-end refrigerators and freezers.

MINDEMOYA—There were broad smiles all around as The Expositor recently toured the new building housing the Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR)’s Food Bank and Thrift Stores. The $1,188,488 in expansions were made possible through initial funding of from the provincial Social Services Relief Fund.

The new facilities will enable the Food Bank to serve 400-450 people a month made up of “a whole variety” of people, including families and seniors, according to MFR’s food security supervisor Nicky Thompson. “Before COVID started, we were servicing around 300.” Numbers have not abated, but accelerated, she noted, “and that trend is continuing.”

The original Thrift Store had to be closed in order to expand the Manitoulin Food Bank, removing an important resource for those facing challenges clothing their families and outfitting their homes with limited resources. The new building accommodates a much-expanded Thrift Store.

“Nothing in the store costs more than $5,” noted Linda Gilchrist, former food security supervisor at MFR and now consultant. Ms. Gilchrist has stayed on for three days a week, well past when she was planning on retiring to assist with the transition to the new facilities, noted MFR executive director Marnie Hall, “for which we are eternally grateful.”

Manitoulin Food Bank has been the beneficiary of the services of a core group of volunteers who have stayed with the organization throughout the pandemic, noted Ms. Hall. “I don’t know what we would do without them.”

“We are fortunate to have a couple who were able to continue to work together through the pandemic restrictions,” said Ms. Gilchrist.

The new food bank section incorporates commercial fridges and freezers and a hugely expanded storage system of shelves for non-perishables that will go a long way to help service the growing number of needs in Island communities.

In addition to the new building, Manitoulin Food Bank now has its own dedicated cargo van, which will greatly enhance their ability to serve the community.

There have also been considerable renovations to the women’s shelter to bring it back to full capacity after reductions necessary to meet pandemic restrictions.

“The way the building was originally constructed people shared bathrooms and bedrooms. With the new construction, everyone has their own bedroom and bathrooms,” said Ms. Hall.

The Social Services Relief Fund (SSRF) initial contribution of $897,838 was augmented with a further SSRF contribution of $331,405 announced in 2021. The funds were channeled through the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board and distributed across the MFR projects, which included $51,414 for the cargo van to facilitate transportation for food and thrift store items ($40,000), as well as the capital expansion projects for the new and larger food bank and thrift store tallying in at $796,947—$50,000 of which went to the Manitoulin Food Bank’s new commercial kitchen equipment.

A future capital project to convert the existing food bank building is on hold while MFR completes the current renovations. “It’s a work that will be in progress after we fully complete the current work,” shared Ms. Hall.

“The food bank and Thrift Store will be open Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm for the time being,” said Ms. Thompson. “The profits from our Thrift Store go directly towards purchasing food to fill the shelves of our Food Bank and to support its operating costs. We greatly appreciate donations such as clothing, money and household items (excluding furniture).”

Two cool new things about the new food bank are the coloured doors located at the storage dock doors so people can collect their items without having to go inside and there is access to the Food Bank or Thrift Store from either location, better enhancing privacy for clients seeking the services.

Referrals to the MFR Food Bank can be made by anyone, including trusted support professionals such as a social worker, doctor, nurse, elder or pastor, a neighbour, friend or by self referral. All that is required is a need for assistance. “Just call the food bank and tell them you are seeking emergency food assistance and a staff member will complete an intake with you over the phone,” said Ms. Thompson.

Unfortunately, the Thrift Store is only currently accepting donations by appointment, noted Ms. Thompson. “Please call 705 368 3400 ext. 242 to schedule a drop off time.”

The new location of the MFR Food Bank and Thrift Store is at 21 Forest Street—that’s two doors down from the previous location.

Manitoulin Food Bank staff and volunteers are already gearing up for the Christmas Food Hamper effort and the need is greater than ever this year. Contact the food bank at 705-368-3400 ext. 242 to find out how you can help.